1/21/2013 Feature: "The Art of Gatecrash"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's "The Art of Gatecrash", which goes live Wednesday morning on magicthegathering.com.

I love the Orzhov color scheme. The stark black and white and bright gold really pop together. The brutalist architecture of the Boros is fitting, though the sun-motif and gold highlights blend with the Orzhov guild symbol. (I though the art of Arrows of Justice was for an Orzhov spell, even if the archers didn't have the unique cyclops helmets). The Simic are nicely amphibian. Tentacles are fun. Many of the Dimir agents seem to have an excessive number of knives. The assassin on Assassin's Strike has 7 visible! (But only 6 sheaths...) The recurring 3 blades in a row is a nice touch.
I'm liking the Dimir's changes. The three motif is a really good idea and it's subtle enough that I've seen virtually nobody figure out until now. I do wonder where all their zombie assassins went; Deathcult Rogue's art is very reminiscent of Rooftop Wight.

The Gruul don't seem much different, but there are some really great Gruul pieces. Burning Tree Emissary is probably my favorite for showing the Gruul pride without the smash for once.

The Orzhov look gorgeous, and that's saying something considering how great they looked in Guildpact. High Priest of Penance and Blind Obedience both manage to portray two sides of the same guild very well.

The Simic seem a bit schizophrenic in their architecture and style. There are some Simic cards that look like they could have come from Dissension, while others embrace the more naturalistic version of the Simic. 

The Boros... Urgh. You know how there was a problem in the original Ravnica block that every Izzet guildmage looked the same? We've got the same problem here, only cranked to eleven. We have three  human soldiers at common or uncommon in the set, and each one is  a guy in chain mail with a spiky crown. It's going to be a nightmare trying to remember which one is which in limited. While it fits an army to have a standard uniform, you have to consider the needs of the card game as well as the needs of the story.
Any particular reason the Simic icon is missing from the large art of Cabal Aristocrat?  Or just artist error?
I think the push to create a look for the unguilded was very successful--it's one of those "even if you don't notice it, you still notice it" things.


One thing I think didn't work, and the picture in this article reminded me of it, was the art for one specific card: Axebane Guardian. When I initially saw that art on a creature card, I thought it was a Plant--that the creature depicted was the vines, not the human wrapped up in them. Everything about the human's posture and expression is just...wrong...for him to be the creature being depicted. Even at the larger size in the article, it just doesn't look at all like the art for a human druid--it looks more like the art for an instant or sorcery depicting a human being entangled somehow in vines, or if it has to be a creature, then the plant that's wrapping him up.

Looking at Axebane Guardian's stats and abilities, I can't help but wonder if the card concept was originally that it was the plant, but then things took a turn along the lines of Birds of Paradise or Karplusan Yeti and the human ended up so central to the piece that you felt people would assume he was the creature being depicted and changed the creature type.

...Actually, the more I think about it the more sense it makes. I think I'm going to head along to the Flavor & Storylines forums and ask Brady if that's the case.

Come join me at No Goblins Allowed


Because frankly, being here depresses me these days.

Any particular reason the Simic icon is missing from the large art of Cabal Aristocrat?  Or just artist error?


The Simic Combine didn't exist for a while, after the events of the first block. Maybe that art is from a time before Zegana "reborn" the Simic?

IMAGE(http://i1.minus.com/jbcBXM4z66fMtK.jpg)

192884403 wrote:
surely one can't say complex conditional passive language is bad grammar ?
Of all the things I've ever liked about Magic art....the architecture and paintings of scenery are usually my favorite.  Its sooo easy (for a talented artist) to convery an entire story with a single image when its something like the art of sacred foundary.  You see a giant symetrical shape, and you just like of organization and attention to detail....very boros.

 I can't say I care for the gruul locations though.  Very little imagery or story to tell just by looking at it.  They look old and run down, but don't strike me as distinctly being another guild's stronghold or place of interest that they've taken over.  

By contrast, the dimir art is my favorite!  The watery grave is simply amazing.  It looks like its not completely forgotten or unused, which is important to note, but it also looks like no one would ever be SEEN there.  Combining those two contrasting ideas must have been a challange in itself, and I think this was a huge success.  I'm also a huge fan of the armor that looks like their insignia...it just flows so beautifully.  

The orzhov kinda falls inbetween for me.  I love the gothic looking churches, and I know that you wanted to establish the "legit" side as well as the racket....but godless shrine doesn't look ominous to me at all.  The guildgate is much more on-flavor for me.  It looks like a legit entrance to a religious area...but it still has a....dark feel to it.  Like they welcome you in with open arms, but stab you in the back when you reach for the embrace....that's perfect for me.  I like the blind obediance art...but don't care for the soldiers so much.  Maybe because I feel like they don't even need them....and maybe they just look kinda weird to me.  

The simic is tough....who knows WHAT to expect?  My comment would be that I like the lab look showing off the science aspect of the guild in Mike Sass (first pictured) image with aspects of nature poking in.  Breeding pool disappoints me a bit, as I feel like there should be more emphasis on the breeding...what's going on in the water?  The creature looks more like a guard to me than an experiment, and there's no other signs of visable life.  A miss for me.  

I also didn't really feel much for the un-gilded art.  Although there are certainly differences to the trained eye (or those who read your whole article) I feel like at a glance, many could be mistaken for something else.  The courier looks like he's wearing boros colors.  Granted there's no insignia (proudly worn by most) and no armor....but I feel like a courier WOULDN'T walk around in armor, lest people think he was delivering news of war.  Leather boots would be a more logical choice.  Stealer of secrets just screams dimir without knowing of the "3" motif.  You see an assassin  sneaking around, wearing blue half in the shadow...and my mind jumps straight to dimir.  How could it not?   I completely agree with the above poster who commented on axebane's art.  The guy....looks like he's on crack.  Either he's growing a crack-plant out of his body, or he's being tangled by the plant.  Verdant haven and noteably righteous charge are the two wins for me.  One shows a presumably wealthy pair strolling through the market.  They look well-to-do, but also not royal, or overly high-ranking.  The charge art shows what I would picture as some "regular" guys in the street.  The street ruffian looks gruul to me....perhaps because of the giant axe and the patchwork leather armor with all the leather bands.  Doesn't seem like a "normal" street thug to me at all.  And holy mantle....well...perhaps its the least obvious of the bunch, but it makes me think orzhov.  Can't quite put my finger on it, maybe its the snobish look on her face....the sense of superiority that I'd see the orzhov having over any other guild.  (I'm allowed one opinion I can't quite defend!)

Overall though, I like the "darker" feel to a lot of the art in the set.  Great job!

 

Yeah, Simic is all over the place, and that's too bad. Maybe you should've gone all-in on the art nouveau* style?


The Gruul should've used MORE architecture and LESS animals in their costumes. Domri Rade could've held a broken and battered lamppost rather than generic skulls, wouldn't that be awesome? Right now they're still way too much all-natural and could come from any plane.


Orzhov are awesome, reminds me a lot of Bayonetta.
Boros are awesome too, although I agree that having the sun be a symbol of 2 guilds is a pity.
Dimir is awesome too, although I'm disappointed in the story of the Dimir ("the guild that doesn't exist" was an awesome hook). But the new style they got is very subtle, and thus very fitting.


So my feelings on the direction of all the guilds for the inevitable Return to Return to Ravnica would be:


Awesome
These guilds work, you only need to further advance what's already there.
1. Orzhov
2. Rakdos (carnival theme is fantastic, push it more)
3. Izzet (although I preferred the steampunk look over the magitech look, but both work)
4. Boros (but this or Orzhov needs to lose the sun, it looks better on Boros but it is Orzhov's symbol...)
5. Dimir


OK
These guilds could use the influx of something extra, something to give them a stronger unique ravnican theme
6. Gruul (not enough of a city feel. The idea of using architecture in clothing/weapons is awesome but used too sparingly and too subtle)
7. Golgari (not enough of a city feel... maybe more sewer/underground vibe? Maybe they should all go blind and rely on other senses to see things. Just as the Gruul, these could come from any plane and do not convey 'Ravnica' enough)
8. Azorius (Still a bit too close to Boros. I preferred the overblown armor from the previous Ravnica to make them distinct. Or maybe they should use no armor at all and just be clothed in impractical cloth/robes stuff)


Meh
These guilds don't work because they don't have a strong central theme
9. Simic (see above, no coherent feel. Whether it's the laboratory, aquatic or art nouveau theme, something should be a central theme for the guild.) Although the whole 'creatures that are 2 races combined things' is awesome and perhaps the saving grace of the guild. Who cares the sentient beings aren't cohesive? The beasts are insanely awesome. 
10. Selesnya (I also miss a central theme here. What are they about? Nature? Both Simic and Gruul are dressed much more 'closer-to-nature' than they are. The tree motif alone doesn't carry this. Beauty? They should get an ornamental style then. Something nice and shiny. The guild members don't look, don't convey 'keepers of beauty'. Community? Boros uses the 'uniform look' to great effect. Maybe some kind of cult look then? Something uniform, something that makes them look like they're one.)


Basically, the green guilds, the nature guilds, have some trouble looking Ravnican, looking city-themed =p Gruul and Golgari have enough of their own unique style though, it are mostly Simic and Selesnya that don't really... have found their place. Both guilds have also shifted a bit in mentality compared to the first Ravnica. Simic used to have more of a laboratory feel, and Selesnya now has a 'conserve the natural beauty' theme that it didn't have the first time around. This indicates to me that both guilds are still shifting and searching for their own identity, but they haven't found it quite yet. There are some awesome subthemes floating around, like Simic's dual-typed creatures and Selesnya's 'keepers of beauty', but their styles do not convey one central theme yet.

* I'm now a bit let down from the Simic teaser from the previous style guide article, which said about the guild symbol "This just needed to commit to the nouveau shapes that the original teased. You'll see why in a few months." Currently I don't really know what I should be seeing.

Personally, I am exceptionally pleased with the cyclops helmets, and the Orzhov armor design.
Dimir was a favorite before, and still is, especially since the skeleton cues have been kept. Especially love some of the vertebrae braces, and the knife-lined vests.
Gruul, hasn't been a favorite of mine, but is much better this time! Especially Domri's pauldrons, and his staff, and I've always liked Borborygmos's shield-gauntlet.
Simic: Ohhhh maaaaaan. This is a reallly tough one for me. The armored Simics are cool, the unarmored wizards and druids, are alright, but it's the beasts that do it for me. experiment one, and the Drake Krasis,  have both been doing realllly cool things for me.
Boros: It is what I expect of them. They're militaristic nature though, tends to leave them less unique, and more standard issue, which I feel detracts from their uniforms, but the elementals really capitalize on it, and look stunning in it!

The guildless: I too find them just as much an important part of the plane. It reminds me there are still average, everyday folk, who boo and hiss at the ruling powers on their home plane, and would just as likely rather have a quiet walk through a verdant haven, though some of the guildess designs, like stealer of secrets, had me thinking Dimir, if it weren't for the flavor text blatantly saying otherwise. It's just as fun to see how the normal work get along in this plane, as a part of the amazing world building, and adds a useful depth of flavor that I can appreciate, as a Vorthos! 
I must say I really don't like the new Dimir. Which is a shame since they were my favourites in the first block. Too much needless knives, and no card really resembles something mysterious. i think the art on Dimir should be more abstract. Compare Mind shred, or Glimpse the unthinkable to Mind grind.

The Gruul are ok, but I feel they could have cut-down on the number of tribal-tatoos and the animal accessories. Sometimes I get the feeling we are not on ravnica anymore, but in a generic korean f2p grinder.

Orzhov and Boros are both good.

As for the Simic, when the "Oceans onder ravnica" plot was revealed It didn't made any sense. But I accepted it, because supposedly wizards needed merfolks i nthe set. But now I see that its completely pointless, since all the merfolks could have as easily been elfs, or vedalken or anything else. i think they look great as a guild, but after seeing the whole set, I realized that merfolks are a pointless and unnecessary addition to the world of Ravnica.

Also again too much leftover from Innistrad. Balustrade spy and Contaminated ground come to mind.

EDIT: i forgot to add that Metropolis fairy, and guardian of the gateless, should have both stayed in whichever anime they came from, and that the work for homing lightning is the most epic I have seen since obliterate.
These are pretty much my favorite articles of the year, even eclipsing preview weeks.  I really enjoyed reading it.

I love the Dimir "3" theme, and now I see it everywhere.  I also really liked the artwork for Bane Alley Broker - it was striking that the Dimir can have an agent that's normal looking, or even attractive.

The only thing that really bugged me was the reuse of the sun motif across Boros and Orzhov.  I know the armor designs are different but it still gives me a double take sometimes.  I'm not sure why the Boros sun doesn't always have the mailed fist inside it, it seems like that would be better.

Random impressions while reading:
Boros = Sons of Korhal (original Starcraft)
Orzhov = Black Hole Sun.  I really love how the black center of the sun symbol really shows their central emptiness
Simic = Final Fantasy X (water theme vs. steampunk, sort of).  "Magetech" was a good word to use here.
Dimir = all those straps are very Victorian somehow
Gruul = no impression, really.

I agree that Gruul could've used more visible bits of the city or salvaged other-guild armor in their costuming, instead of skulls and horns.  They could be from any plane as they are shown; the only thing that makes them clearly Ravnican is that they are red / green.
Honestly, it's difficult for me to place the Guildless. When I see them, if I ignore the background cityscapes, I can't place them. Not that I have trouble deciding what plane they go on, but they feel like they're from a plane I've never seen-- like as if they were apart of the next block or something. They're definitely not as unique as Innistradians.

AZealot is the most successful one. I would definitely place her on Ravnica, but also never felt like she was Boros, some subtle differences made her seem more generic. 
Boros = Sons of Korhal (original Starcraft)


This is surprisingly accurate!

IMAGE(http://i1.minus.com/jbcBXM4z66fMtK.jpg)

192884403 wrote:
surely one can't say complex conditional passive language is bad grammar ?
I must say I really don't like the new Dimir. Which is a shame since they were my favourites in the first block. Too much needless knives, and no card really resembles something mysterious. i think the art on Dimir should be more abstract. Compare Mind shred, or Glimpse the unthinkable to Mind grind.


Glimpse the Unthinkable is not abstract. It has great art, but it's not abstract.

The new Dimir still have abstract aplenty; see Whispering Madness (Well, unless you think his pen-writing is literally transforming into skeletal ghosts). 

The Gruul are ok, but I feel they could have cut-down on the number of tribal-tatoos and the animal accessories. Sometimes I get the feeling we are not on ravnica anymore, but in a generic korean f2p grinder.


That's how the Gruul have always been. I think the animal elements are overused, but the tattoos certainly fit the feel of the Gruul and don't feel out of place in a city. 

As for the Simic, when the "Oceans onder ravnica" plot was revealed It didn't made any sense. But I accepted it, because supposedly wizards needed merfolks i nthe set. But now I see that its completely pointless, since all the merfolks could have as easily been elfs, or vedalken or anything else. i think they look great as a guild, but after seeing the whole set, I realized that merfolks are a pointless and unnecessary addition to the world of Ravnica. 


I don't see it. The reveal of the Zonots was important to the new Simic's backstory. 

EDIT: i forgot to add that Metropolis fairy, and guardian of the gateless, should have both stayed in whichever anime they came from

Wat. Guardian of the Gateless looks like every single Boros card in the set, chain mail, spikey hat and all. 

Admittedly, I don't have much experience from anime, but how does Guardian of the Gateless look any different from the other angels in the set?
* I'm now a bit let down from the Simic teaser from the previous style guide article, which said about the guild symbol "This just needed to commit to the nouveau shapes that the original teased. You'll see why in a few months." Currently I don't really know what I should be seeing.

So I'm not the only one, then? I was all kinds of excited when I read that article originally, because I love Simic and I love Nouveau and the two seem to be made for each other. I was actually hoping the proposed reboot was moving them from experimental bio-engineers to more elegant 'bio-artistes', with Nouveau design principles permeating beyond just architecture. Since they didn't quite hit the Nouveau note even in architecture, and they seem to have retained quite a bit of their 'mad science' vibe (e.g., Experiment One, Unexpected Results, etc.), obviously that wish didn't quite come true...
There's some Nouveau-like elements in the art of Unexpected Results (the clothing of the researcher, the "filigree" surrounding the tank), but I do wish there was more.
I love these articles.  Magic has always stood out because of its exceptional art, and I wish we could hear even more about how it comes about.  I want scads of concept drawings and analysis!  My general reactions:

You knocked Orzhov out of the park.  The absurdly gaudy armor and overblown architecture manage to make the guild slightly sinister without resorting to tired tropes.  Knight of Obligation stands out for me, but I haven't seen a single misstep in the set.  It's everything that worked with the old Orzhov ramped up.  Good gravy.

Dimir runs the risk of being kind of generic - skulking assassins in black leather strapped with knives - but the shout-outs to the old skeleton motif save it.  Pretty good stuff, though I do miss the ragamuffin look of cards like Dimir Infiltrator.  These new cutthroats look a little to slick and polished to be hanging around in back alleys and slums.

The problem with Gruul is that you need to make a set of barbarian types who don't look like Kresh and his posse from Jund.  I don't know if you really succeeded in making Gruul look unique, though the scavanged equipment did help a bit.  The tattoos are an overused trope at this point; scarification might have been a better way to set these guys apart from the many barbarous peoples we've seen over the years.  Again, they're just a little too put together.

Boros.  I'm a big fan of Roman-style arms and armor in Magic, and the Boros cards that incorporate that are great.  Unfortunately the Legion seems to have tilted more in the direction of generic fantasy knights in sleek armor; it's very reminiscent of Gondor in Jackson's LotR trilogy.  There's also too much variation for my taste: wouldn't the Boros have a pretty strict dress code?  Finally, the architecture from the original block was perfect and you were spot on in choosing to keep that look, but your concept of top-heaviness just isn't working for me.  It looks unstable, wacky and Izzet-like, not exactly the image an ever-watchful legion wants to project to those under its protection.  I get the thought process behind it; I just don't think it quite worked out in practice.

Finally, Simic.  You can definitely tell that this guild was a conceptual challenge.  At its best it's a snarl of finned organic goodness straight out of Gaudi's nightmares; at its worst it's generic elves in teal armor.  Still, the guild has some of the best individual card art in the set and the aquatic influance can be seen throughout, so it's a win for me.  That's especially impressive considering that you couldn't use any of the very strong visual style of the original guild.  Art through adversity.  Bravo.


Overall, you did a darn fine job.  The art of this set is some of the best I've seen in years.  Any general gripes I have are geared more toward the gradual phasing out of abstract, distorted and non-naturalistic art in MtG, but then, I'd happily see an entire guild illustrated by Richard Kane Ferguson at his most deranged, and I adored the art of Lorwyn/Shadowmoor, so I'm probably an outlier.  Well done folks.
There's also too much variation for my taste: wouldn't the Boros have a pretty strict dress code?

Yes and no.

The White half of Boros obviously pushes toward uniformity, equality; but the Red half is pushing back in the direction of personal freedom, individuality, and expression. I would not be at all surprised to see the Boros maintaining 'standard issue' uniforms, but actively encouraging their soldiers to personalise them from there; Boros is not just the regimented army, but the empassioned regimented army. They would likely ensure that everyone got the same basic equipment, and that they retained some modicum of order in how they used it, but being Boros - as opposed to being mono-White, or even Azorius - is specifically about not using those rules to stifle individual freedoms. Complete uniformity is as much a sin to the Boros as complete chaos - getting them 'right' is about finding a balance that evokes them both.

My first thoughts along those lines, personally, is that all Boros soldiers would get the same basic gear - helmet, mail, greaves - and from there could adorn those items however they want, on one condition: whatever else they include has to bear the Boros insignia. Boros soldiers would naturally jump on the opportunity to express themselves, and thus would likely be 'decked out' in Boros logos at all times - this is also a subtle form of propaganda whereby those soldiers come to associate the expression of their own identity with the Boros insignia itself, as well as attaching the natural pride they have in self-expression directly to the wearing of the Boros symbol. Boros soldiers - especially new ones, or recruits - would likely be covered in a chaotic assortment of as much Boros 'flair' as they could find, some of it even rough, or handmade. As you move up through the legion hierarchy you'd expect to find that expression becoming more orderly, more refined, as well as more unique, until that orderly individualism eventually overtakes the basic gear altogether - high-ranking Boros officers would likely have completely unique, customised armour (possibly worn over the basic helm, mail, and greaves), to the point that they're recognisable enough even without removing their helmets. And yet to everyone else, they're still another walking Boros billboard - they still put off an air of uniformity, while making a completely unique personal expression. The point is in using rules to give that individuality form, to support it, rather than in any attempt to hamper it.

An obstacle here, it seems, is that they'd never really wear any less armour - they refine the expression as they rise through the ranks (as they can better afford to, and as their identity within the guild becomes more significant), but they never just have less identity to express. This would mean that soldiers get progressively clunkier as they advance, and makes things like Razia, Boros Archangel's outfit unlikely. That said, I think the angels of old Boros were considered something else entirely, so that's not a huge issue; bigger would probably be the fact that clunky armour appears to be an Azorius thing as well, and it would be important to distinguish them. Keeping Boros armour rough, chaotic, and assymetrical for low-ranking members and making it more angular (reminiscent of the insignia's sunburst pattern) as it gets clunkier and more orderly would probably keep it distant enough from the others along the spectrum. Also, using fewer sunburst patterns on their armour and more clunky, angular shapes would also differentiate them further from the Orzhov, who seem to be crowding each other. At the point that they had clunky, pointy armour I'd expect it to be refined enough to be easily distnguishable from Rakdos spikes, so that shouldn't be a problem either. The biggest issue I can think of is that clunky, spiky armour simply might not look good, and I'm afraid I'm not really in a position to say one way or another...

EDIT: Good heavens, do I get wordy when I'm tired. Apologies for the unprovoked dissertation... 
Why would you put sun shapes on the Boros stuff when the Orzhov already do that. come on man
Why would you put sun shapes on the Boros stuff when the Orzhov already do that. come on man



Because the Boros already had sun stuff in the first Ravnica set.  Also the sun can represent fire and light.  Blazing energy and holy radiance to drive back the darkness.

If anything, your question should should have the guilds reversed.  Why would they put sun shapes on the Orzhov stuff when the Boros already do that?

That question can also be answered.  Half of the Orzhov philosophy is a form of religion.  However, this religion has no figurehead, hence the "godless Sun" as their primary symbol.  It also represents the fact that they may appear holy on the outside, on the inside their hearts and souls are black, twisted, and evil. 

And of course, the Orzhov utilized the sun symbol when they were introduced in Guildpact.

While we are at it, do we want to include the fact that Selesnya also uses the sun as part of their symbol.  Azorius is the only part white guild that never used the sun as a part of their symbol and don't have a philosophy that the sun can really represent. 
IMAGE(http://pwp.wizards.com/1205820039/Scorecards/Landscape.png)
About the latest update bulletin (for some reason "Discuss" links here):
www.wizards.com/magic/magazine/article.a...

The old/new wording of Ink-Treader Nephilim is not shown. Instead it shows the old/new wording of Vanish into Memory.

Also the new wording for Vanish Into Memory may still be ambiguous. I've opened a thread in RT&T to discuss it:
community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758...